Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them is a prequel, set years before Harry Potter was ever born. It is set in 1920s New York, and Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), a “magizoologist” with insider knowledge of all sorts of magical creatures, is just arriving from London.
The Stateside is experiencing a troubled and troubling time: the underground wizarding community is under threat, because something unknown is hunting them by the numbers. To protect their ranks, the wizards must take great care to hide their powers from the No-Majs (people with no magic). It doesn’t help that a fanatical group, led by Samantha Morton’s demonically prim Mary Lou Barebone, is out to break the wizards’ ranks apart.
Into this cesspool steps Scamander, hoping to research some new magical beasts and protect some that have become endangered. He happens to have come with a number of such creatures in his mystically bottomless suitcase, and their misbehavior ends up landing him, and the new friends he makes, in a whole lot of trouble.
Those misadventures involve an earnest, friendly No-Maj and aspiring baker, Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler); Tina Goldstein (Katharine Waterston), a “Statute of Secrecy” enforcer who misperceives what Scamander is up to and tries to turn him in to the wizarding officials; and Tina’s sister, Queenie (Alison Sudol), a charming flapper-girl who can read minds as efficiently as a voracious grade-school reader tearing her way through all seven Harry Potter books.
There’s so much going on in Fantastic Beasts that after the first act, you really aren’t bothered about what happens next. In the movie’s world, there’s a magical explanation for everything, which means that story logic will always get left by the wayside. (In the Harry Potter books, Rowling did a remarkable job of making magical logic seem consistent and believable, and the movie adaptations followed suit; that clarity was lost here). And even though the movie preaches tolerance, its ideas never quite jell. Watch the trailer below:
Still, Yates and Rowling are intent on working their charm on us, and some of it sticks: Redmayne’s performance is just too adorably mannered, Fogler and Sudol twirl through their roles like dance-floor champs — both have low-key, breezy allure.
And the beasts? They’re often pretty fantastic. A puffin-type creature with a penchant for